The last days of Field Marshal Idriss Deby

On April 20, 2021, Chadians learned on national radio and television of the death of Head of State Idriss Deby, aged 68, in power for thirty years. A Council Military (CMT) headed by one of his sons was responsible for leading the transition. Why and how did Idriss Deby die? One year after the death of Chad Marshall, RFI has reconstructed the thread of events thanks to the trust of actors and witnesses in this historic moment. In the first part of this investigation, we ask about the circumstances that prompted Idriss Deby Itno to go to the front at the risk of his life.

In this month of April 2021, Idriss Déby shows his overwhelming presence in N’Djamena. Along the capital’s main avenues, electoral posters of the head of state, who has been in power since ousting his former ally Hissene Habré in 1990, are plastered on panels and walls. The city is filled as always with many men in uniform, the heat is suffocating, it is the month of Ramadan. Sunday 11 election It would be a formality for him, as he faces opponents either former collaborators or candidates who have announced their withdrawal from the race. The opposition largely decided to boycott the referendum for a sixth term for the head of state.

Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno votes in N’Djamena on April 11, 2021. AFP – Marco Longari

Much more than the direction of the ballot boxes, the gaze of the “Marshal” is directed toward the northern borders of his country. Symbolically, on the day of this election, the Front for Harmonization and Accord in Chad (the truth) announced its offensive. The reality is that the movement’s leader, Mohamed Mahdi Ali, confirms the fact that he entered Chadian territory.” 6 . ago ».

The goal, then, is Election disruption “and fix” Soldier by Debbie in order to allow internal demonstrators (who then respond to the call of the political opposition and Chadian civil society) to rise up “Today determines the leader of the truth. For this, he has, he says, a force of 500 pickup trucks and 2,500 to 3,000 well-armed fighters.

► To (re)read: Chad: The reality of the rebels advancing inside the country

Coming from a family of wealthy merchants of the Goran ethnic group, Muhammad Mahdi Ali was an intellectual who had trained in France and believed, like many before him, that ” strength only ” you will do ” Fall Dibi In April 2016, he separated from the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development led by Mohamed Nouri to form FACT.

In the chaos that has prevailed in Libya since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, rebel groups have sold their services to various actors. Truth first targeted Khalifa Haftar, then in 2017 it got close to the eastern Libyan strongman. Some of its fighters are taking part in training provided by militiamen from Russia’s Wagner Group. They control the fighting, over a stockpile of weapons from Gaddafi’s army or from Haftar’s patrons: Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt. This is amazing ” opportunity link With Wagner and Haftar, this does not mean, however, that FACT benefited from their assistance in planning its operations, especially since Khalifa Haftar and Idriss Déby demonstrated their affinity in the name of ” fight against terrorism “.

In fact, the desert road will limit losses

Between 11 and 17 April, the rebels advanced rapidly despite Chadian air strikes and the regular overflights of French aircraft, which were supposed to dissuade them from continuing their journey. They divide their forces: some pretend to take the direction of Vaya Largo Repair of Chadian units and French eyes ‘, he devises a French officer, while the bulk of the troops, about a thousand men, is rushing at full speed, 600 kilometers to the south, along the border with Niger. These ” unusual path It allows them to get around the Chadian garrisons, but also to reduce their losses, explains Mohamed Mehdi Ali: “ To avoid heavy Chadian bombardment, we decided to leave the rocky areas branching towards the desert where the sand smothers the bombs, where the shrapnel does not kill by recoil. Muhammad Mahdi Ali says:

The truth surprised us, because it is powerful in field strategy, and able to lead to the wrong leads to focus our few resources on a single point. “A very senior French military official admits, and does not rule this out in the future” An operation of the same kind frustrates our observation again. “Because France does not have the material, human and technical means to permanently monitor the Sahara, especially since its eyes are primarily directed” Mali and the Three Borders Region “. calendar : ” Actually ‘This senior officer insists,’ We look when the Chadians ask us to revoke or confirm their information. They mainly work with human intelligence, and in general they do it very well.. But not this time. Were the Chadians deceived, or did the rebels benefit from the complicity? “ There was clearly something wrong with the fact that they got in without a problem. asks a member of the security apparatus, which is switching between power and revolution.

Whatever the case, it is from Idriss Deby Itno described as ” Anxiety by one of his comrades, who will fly to Brazzaville on Friday 16 April. He attended the swearing-in ceremony with about twenty African leaders Another president re-elected under disputed circumstances, Denis Sassou Nguesso.

Back in N’Djamena, the head of state knows that penetrating the truth is more important than expected. These rebels are near the city of Mau, the capital of Kanem Province, about 300 kilometers from the capital. ” Idriss Deby fears that the Mahdi will find support there among the notables of Goran, as it is their region, and that he will gather men, supplies and weapons there. Says one of his former advisors.

When he comes back from Brazzaville, we do breakfast together ‘, recalls a longtime companion who is now a member of the Transitional Military Council (CMT).” He decided to go there. We in the General Staff of course do not agree, because the president’s place is not in the front. »

Going to the front against everyone’s advice

But Idriss Déby does not care about the statements of his generals and his close family. He decides to leave. Usually: In 2008 when rebellion threatened N’Djamena, ” He refuses to be extradited by France, fights a battle and even loses his aide, and is killed in Masaget next to him. “, recalls the minister who has known him for a long time. In 2020, it is the launch of its success against Boko Haram during the operation.” Bohoma’s wrath in the Lake District, which earned him his mentor’s wand.

Civilian or military, everyone who knew him was not surprised by this leader’s decision.” Brave but angry at times He also constantly repeated that he was destined to die in the field of honor. ” I’ve known him since high school and I know we can’t change him, he didn’t listen to him, because he should be the leader with his squad He adds, he met one of his generals in N’Djamena. ” He always spent time at the front, often in the fifth car, in a very forward position “,” recalls a diplomat who formerly worked in N’Djamena, the Chadian capital, where residents sometimes nicknamed him. great survivor “.

April 2022 Facts Attack Map.
April 2022 Facts Attack Map. © RFI

Unbeknownst to his family, Idriss Déby left for Mao on Saturday 17th at the end of the day, followed by a crowd of people near the palace. ” before it was a show One of his key advisors smiled at the time: For those close to him and to the General Staff, it was out of the question, but he did not listen. Even his generals knew he had left when he was already there. In his society, people are required to accompany the leader to war, even if they are not necessarily soldiers, so we laughed because some cadres broke in still in civilian clothes because they were behind him, and they didn’t even have time for that. Take a uniform on the road. »

He arrived in the area at the end of the day, with a temporary stay and already found the military leaders there, first of all his son Mohammed, the head of the Presidential Guard, the army’s elite unit, and chief of staff, Major General Daoud. . The two men maneuver the fight against the truth. They come out of a particularly violent but favorable day.

The day before, Friday, they had managed to track down the Mahdi’s men at Bir Dom. At dawn on Saturday, they chased more than 400 km, and finally managed to catch up in the afternoon in Zhigu, about 200 km northeast of Mao, the truth extremists, ” stuck in quicksand “.

Loyalists superior in number and armament, with the support of French intelligence and air supply (water and fuel), inflicted a first setback on the Fact position in Bir al-Din, destroying dozens of vehicles. They claim to have caused the deaths of approximately 300 and a hundred prisoners.

At dawn on Sunday, April 18, Mohamed Idriss Deby and Major General Daoud returned to the front line to lead a new offensive. Idriss Deby is following the situation in the withdrawal. But the circumstances of the battle will catch up with him.

“The Death of Idriss Déby: An Investigation of the Great Mystery” It is an investigation coordinated by François Mazet and Florence Maurice, with Frank Alexandre, Magyasra Nako and Esdras Ndikumana.

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